Timothy Faust: Weighing the big box impacts
It seems people have very passionate feelings about the plans to bring Lowe’s and Home Depot to Summit County. As it often happens, I believe those feelings are obscuring some of the facts. People have been writing in to the Summit Daily saying that we can’t live without the big box retailers, or that brining in a Home Depot spells the end of life as we know it here in Summit. Perhaps a more pragmatic approach is in order. Let us really take a look at some of the pros and cons.
The first and most obvious con is that big box stores are ugly, and will probably have a negative impact on the appearance of the county. (Although, I’ve honestly never heard anyone say how ugly Beaver Creek is because of the Home Depot in nearby Avon.) Also, it will hurt local businesses. Some of those businesses will have to make major changes in order to stay competitive, but many recent reports have shown that while large retailers are hurt most by the current economy, many mom-and-pop stores are doing fairly well. There are also environmental concerns if the stores, and more importantly, parking lots, are displacing open space. This is an issue that will require careful consideration, study, and enforcement. Lastly, the big boxes will create jobs that are mostly low wage jobs, and other businesses like sign makers, CPA’s, and other services will be hurt since big boxes tend to do those services in house.
Now for the pros. Big box stores will have a net increase on the number of jobs. These jobs will be the year round jobs (as opposed to seasonal tourism jobs) that this county needs. Ms. Berry pointed out that the big boxes will encourage a brain drain on our local economy by forcing our young people out. I couldn’t disagree more. If someone was looking for a career in the hardware retail business, there is only so far one can advance in local businesses. A large company like Lowe’s offers a lot more opportunity for our young people. They can go into management and six-figure salaries as they progress through the company. Ms. Berry states that the county will lose tourism appeal. I also disagree. Beaver Creek clearly isn’t hurting for tourism despite a Home Depot and Walmart right on I-70. In fact, the ability for people to have access to a big box store makes the idea of purchasing an renovating a vacation home here even more appealing.
I really do not have a strong opinion on the big boxes either way, but I have definitely had strong reactions from many of the letters in the Summit Daily. My letter is intended to direct the discussion towards the real issues. Society is not going to collapse if the big boxes move in, nor are the prices of homes going to double if they do not.
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